Center Stage: Mormon Temple site for spectacular “Festival of Lights”

KENSINGTON — The Washington, D.C., Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints held its annual “Festival of Lights” from Dec. 1 to Jan. 1. Each night, a different musical performance from different cultures was held at the Temple visitor center.

The annual festival is very popular. According to Sister Fowler, the crowd can reach up to 10,000.

On Dec. 26, local Japanese musicians performed “Christmas in Japanese Style.” The group was led by singer Seiko Shimada and included Japanese-American flutists Megumi Shimada and Louisa Loe, conservatory-trained pianist Kaoru Ninbayashi, and the piano duo Yuka and Miri, two conservatory-trained musicians.

The entire performance lasted 45 minutes, with each duo of musicians taking turns performing Christmas songs or popular Japanese music.

Shimada opened and ended the performance by singing Christmas songs in Japanese, including a Japanese version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”. She also sang a beautiful, lilting soprano rendition of “Angels, We Have Heard on High” and “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” in Japanese.

Flutists Loe and 13 year-old Shimada skillfully performed a duet in a medley of four songs: “Deck the Halls,” “The Wassail Song,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and “Joy to the World.”

Yuka and Miri, described as “conservatory-trained musicians who fuse American and Japanese culture in their music,” both sat at one piano and played a duet of songs including “Carol of the Bells,” “Chopsticks” and the theme from the popular Japanese animation “Lupin the Third.”

Yuka and Miri’s performance was captivating because of their skillful, quick playing, particularly on a fast-paced version of “Chopsticks.” Their elaborate gestures, call-and-response, and playful musicianship made their performance enjoyable to watch.

According to Yuka Stein of the Yuka and Miri duo, Shimada gathered the performers from the D.C.- area Japanese community and knows Miri, who teaches at the local Washington Japanese Language School. Yuka and Miri have performed in both the D.C. area and Japan, such as Uguisu Hall in Tsuru City, Yamanashi.

Outside, patrons are free to walk among the elaborate and colorful lights that stretch all around the visitors’ center. There is also an exhibit that shows many different cultural interpretations of the birth of Jesus, with dolls from Madagascar to Ireland.

Later performances showcased bluegrass music, a choir performance, ballet and classical dancing, and a piano and vocal performance. 



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